Writing while walking
September 2, 2019 3:39 PM   Subscribe

A few years ago I attended a conference talk by a well-known science fiction writer who described how he would hike and record rough drafts of his chapters, which he would later have transcribed, and then revise while traveling, etc. I can't afford transcription, and was thinking of either using a Twiddler3 chorded keyboard or recording myself using Google's voice recognition on my phone. I have a three mile, one-way walking commute to work and need the exercise. Has anyone had any success with some form of writing while walking?

I worry that I will end up destroying many of the meditative components of walking, but on the other hand writing for 90 minutes a day seems like it would be awesome.
posted by mecran01 to Technology (8 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
RE: Transcription

Try Otter.ai - does fabulous transcription from a file and you can save it to Word or PDF. On the free plan you get 600 minutes per month, on the $10/monthly plan, you get 6000 minutes/month. I've used it several times now and really like it.

My referral link is above and if you use it, you get one month of premium (the $10/above tier). Might be just what you need. (Full transparency, I get a month free when you use it.)
posted by Mysticalchick at 3:50 PM on September 2, 2019 [15 favorites]

Came on here to recommend Otter. Remarkably decent ASR transcription. I record while walking and try to correct the transcription later that day (so I still remember enough to figure out the occasional mistranscription).
posted by correcaminos at 3:55 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I often do drafting by audio, either a recording and run through a transcription thing later, or just re-listen to catch the drift.
posted by tilde at 4:06 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I came in to recommend Otter as well. I've started using it for doing meeting minutes and it's remarkably good. It mostly only has trouble when there are overlapping voices, which shouldn't be a problem for you.
posted by Lexica at 4:14 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Upload your file to YouTube, have it generate subtitles, then download the subtitle track to clean up in a word processor or real text editor.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:32 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On this page, about 20% of the way down, the author (Stephen Wolfram) describes how he types on a laptop while he walks (and he shows a picture of a laptop that is connected to a special harness he uses to suspend the laptop in front of him). Not sure that I'd want to do this, but it seems to work for him.
posted by alex1965 at 5:58 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I do this, both while walking and while driving long distances, using my phone and either Google's speech to text (in an email to myself, most often) or Smart Recorder if I want to speak freely and transcribe it myself later. Speech to text (on my phone at least) sometimes requires me to pause between phrases so the app can catch up, but it doesn't get in the way too much.

As for whether it is successful, yes, very much so for me. Especially for plotting, first person narration, and trying out dialogue. If I run into a problem with plot when writing at a computer, I'll literally argue my way out of it while dictating, as the movement and the changing landscape seem to help move thoughts forward rather than ruminating on what's written on the page or getting frustrated by everything that gets deleted.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:13 PM on September 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: nthing Otter.ai, but I just wanted to add that so far I've had slightly better experience recording directly into an audio app (I use something called Voice Recorder) and then uploading to Otter.ai rather than using Otter's own mobile app.

This has become my preferred approach for getting "tough" writing started, because I needed a process like this to force me to separate "writing" from "editing".

I used to feel silly, but whoahhh did I get over that quickly once I realized I could get several pages of usable text out of a 30-minute walk-and-talk!!
posted by shelbaroo at 12:38 PM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

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